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The death of Michael Brown, according to Darren Wilson

Here’s what Darren Wilson told the grand jury after killing Michael Brown.


Dell Cameron


In a rare decision by a county prosecutor, the complete grand jury testimony in the Ferguson, Mo., shooting case of an unarmed black teenager by a police officer has been released to the public. 

The testimony of officer Darren Wilson reveals his side of the story—a tale that has stunned supporters of 18-year-old Michael Brown, who Wilson killed while on duty, and journalists alike.

The hundreds of people gathered outside the Ferguson Police Department on Monday evening were shocked, some visibly shaken, by the announcement that a St. Louis County grand jury had decided not to indict Wilson over the Aug. 9 shooting death of Brown. 

Tearfully, one protester told CNN during a live broadcast that it was apparent the death of an 18-year-old black man was not worthy of a day in court. Hours passed and as many as a dozen Ferguson businesses were burnt to the ground during a night of intense violence, while journalist worked to comb through the thousands of pages of grand jury testimony, hoping to uncover what had led nine white and three black jurors to their controversial decision.

“He looked up at me and had the most aggressive face,” Wilson said in his testimony, released by St. Louis County Prosecutor Robert McCulloch’s office immediately after the decision was announced. “The only way I can describe it, it looks like a demon, that’s how angry he looked.”

“The only way I can describe it, it looks like a demon, that’s how angry he looked.”

“When I grabbed him, the only way I can describe it is I felt like a 5-year-old holding onto Hulk Hogan,” he said, telling the jurors that, after encountering Brown following an incident of suspected theft at a local convenience store, he felt as if his life was in jeopardy. “That’s just how big he felt and how small I felt just from grasping his arm.”

According to Wilson, Brown stuck him in the face twice and tried to prevent him from leaving his patrol vehicle. “I felt that another one of those punches in my face could knock me out or worse,” he said. The officer, who had never fired his firearm in the line of duty before, testified that he had considered using mace, his baton or a flashlight as a weapon before drawing his gun and telling Brown to “get back or I’m going to shoot you.” That’s when Wilson says Brown reached for the weapon. Wilson then says he discharged his firearm multiple times, startling both himself and Brown, who quickly fled. Within moments of giving chase, Brown was dead, shot at least six times, with a single bullet penetrating the top of his head and killing him.

Instead of complying with his orders to get on the ground, Wilson said, Brown was charging towards him when he fired the fatal shot. “At this point, it looked like he was almost bulking up to run through the shots,” he told the jury. “Like it was making him mad that I’m shooting at him. And the face that he had was looking straight through me, like I wasn’t even there, I wasn’t even anything in his way.”

Wilson described the neighborhood in which the altercation occurred as a hostile environment. “There’s a lot of gangs that reside or associate with that area,” he said. “There’s a lot of violence in that area, there’s a lot of gun activity, drug activity; it is just not a very well-liked community. That community doesn’t like the police.”

Wilson said that his intention was originally to delay as long as possible and hope for his fellow officers to arrive at the scene: 

“I knew I had already called for backup and I knew they were already in the area for the stealing that was originally reported. So I thought if I can buy 30 seconds of time, that was my original goal when I tried to get him to come to the car. If I could buy 30 seconds of time, someone else will be here, we can make the arrest, nothing happens, we are all good. And it didn’t happen that way.”

In total, 12 of the 13 rounds in Wilson’s magazine were discharged that day, the grand jury heard. All of the bullet casings were recovered at the scene.

Wilson also testified that he saw Brown reach under his shirt after he was initially shot and turned back toward him. “He turns, and when he looked at me, he made like a grunting, like aggravated, sound and he starts—he turns and he’s coming back towards me,” Wilson said. “His first step is coming towards me, he kind of does like a stutter step to start running. When he does that, his left hand goes in a fist and goes to his side, his right one goes under his shirt in his waistband and he starts running at me.”

Another curious detail revealed by the evidence is that the medical investigator took no photographs at the scene of Brown’s killing, according to reports, because the camera battery had died. “It was self-explanatory what happened,” said the unidentified investigator, who also didn’t bother to take any measurements. “Somebody shot somebody. There was no question as to any distances or anything of that nature at the time I was there.”

Said to corroborate Wilson’s report that he had been struck multiple times, a physician diagnosed him with a bruised face after the confrontation. Photographs of Wilson in an examination room were released with the testimony. They appear to show a redness on both of his cheeks, with the right cheek appearing slightly swollen. No other injuries were reported, and Wilson was prescribed an over-the-counter anti-inflammatory for treatment.

“The duty of the grand jury is to separate fact and fiction,” Ferguson prosecutor Robert P. McCulloch said in a televised statement Monday night. “No probable cause exists to file any charges against Darren Wilson.”

The U.S. Department of Justice is currently conducting its own investigation into the death of Brown under the orders of outgoing U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder. 

It is unlikely that federal charges will be brought against Wilson; however, a broader investigation is also underway into the Ferguson Police Department, which could potentially reveal discriminatory practices. In 2013, for instance, 92 percent of police searches and 86 percent of car stops by police involved black citizens, according to statistics provided by the Missouri Attorney General. That same year, 483 blacks were arrested, as opposed to 36 who were white. Ferguson has an overwhelmingly white police force, which is not representative of its almost 60 percent black population. 

Photo via St. Louis County grand jury (PD)

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